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Natalie Panek

Rocket Scientist & Advocate for Women in Tech

Natalie is a rocket scientist, adventurer, and advocate for women in technology. As a Member of Technical Staff at MDA’s Robotics and Automation division, Natalie works on the next generation of Canadian space robotics and space exploration programs. She seeks to pursue the road less travelled while working towards her dream of becoming an astronaut.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Natalie customizes talks based on the nature of the event she is speaking at.

Learning Should Know No Boundaries
Oftentimes the best way to learn is simply by doing, accompanied by an openness to possibilities. How do you structure your life to build in learning opportunities, and hold yourself accountable for growing? As an Aerospace Engineer, Natalie has worked on an array of projects that include building space robotics, repairing/servicing satellites, studying the effects of lunar dust on hardware, and even a Mars rover set to launch in 2020. Throughout these challenging projects, she understands that learning happens every day: from failure, from colleagues, or from new experiences.

In this talk she shares five pillars for learning and developing new skills and competencies:
• Perseverance
• Embracing Failure
• Working Outside Comfort Zones
• Optimism
• Peak Moments
Natalie provides audiences with a practical structure for implementing these pillars in their lives so that learning and the goals we choose to pursue will know no boundaries.

Innovation | Building for Mars & Beyond
How can organizations build for something that does not yet exist or build something that seems unimaginable? Breakthrough technology solutions come about through future-focused planning and adapting for success along the way.
Whether it’s building space robots that need to perform in the extreme environment of space or building a Mars rover that will be operating on another planet, Natalie’s engineering experiences teach what to do if there is no existing road map for your ideas, or even for the execution of those ideas. Having a vision, the design process, decision making, teamwork, and mentorship are each navigational waypoints for helping get new ideas off the ground – for transforming an idea into reality. In this presentation, Natalie shows you the importance of each, and how to implement them within your organization.

Revolutionizing Women in Technology
Why change the ratio in STEM? Why focus and prioritize Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? The bottom line is that many industries are affected negatively when diverse perspectives are not included in the way we work; when differing points of view are not involved in problem-solving or the development of technologies that changes the way we live and work. Natalie’s experience as an Aerospace Engineer working in a male-dominated industry offers a unique perspective on how we can support people working in STEM through:
• Changing organizational culture
• Doing the hard work
• Lifting each other up
In this presentation, Natalie shares her experiences and lessons learned as a woman in the field to show audiences some practical ways we can break down barriers and ensure that we inspire, recruit, and retain women and minorities to pursue STEM careers.

What the Outdoors Teaches About Rocket Science
We all encounter turning points – moments of decision-making that affect the outcomes of our lives. So how do we transition these into the best possible outcome? An avid adventurer, Natalie has explored areas of Greenland, Baffin Island, Patagonia, the Rockies, and Alaska, among other areas, often navigating by map and compass. Throughout her experiences, Natalie has learned just how leadership in the outdoors translates into leadership in life.

In this presentation, she shows audiences how utilizing patience, following the road less traveled, tapping into grace under pressure, having confidence, and taking the time to plan up front each provides the best chance of success. Whether exploring extreme environments here on Earth or building hardware to explore the extreme environments found in space, Natalie inspires audiences to take control of their decision-making process.

Platform Plus

Panelist/ In Conversation

Natalie brings inspiring & insightful discussion to panels on topics such as STEM, career development, innovation, motivation, education & more.

Celebrity Partnerships

An acclaimed voice in the realm of STEM, Natalie is on a mission to inspire the next generation of female game-changers to dive head-on into challenge and pursue careers in engineering and technology. She’s worked with brands such as Samsung & Activia to engage audiences around the topics of innovation, exploration, curiosity & more.


University of Calgary | Schulich Engineering Diversity and Equity Alumni Award

Canadian Geographic | Canada's Greatest Women Explorers

30 Under 30 | Flare
30 Under 30 | Forbes

Top 100 Most Powerful Women Canada | Women’s Executive Network

Graduate of the Last Decade Award | University of Calgary
Rising Star in Aerospace | Northern Lights Award Foundation

  • Natalie was a huge success. Delegates appreciated her fresh presentation that did not look like it was a "canned" presentation that she dragged out of a PowerPoint collection. She was very genuine and connected well with the audience. She had a message that was very powerful as she concluded her remarks. Natalie timed her remarks perfectly (as per our request) and she delivered a message that was ideally suited to the audience. All in all a huge success from my perspective...I would be happy to endorse Natalie to future prospective clients if that would be of any use.

    - Executive Director, Canadian Assn of School System Administrators
  • When we booked Natalie for the Walrus Talks, we knew we'd be getting an intelligent, insightful, energetic speaker. When she appeared on our stage, though, she brought all of that and so much more. Her passion for ideas and ability to connect with the audience is truly incredible. We liked her so much, we immediately booked her again.

    - Director of Events and Special Projects, The Walrus Foundation
  • The girls who are applying to engineering programs next year were truly inspired and felt very encouraged to continue with their chosen academic pathways. We were so impressed with your message to the girls - your stories, experience and vision really do epitomize what we aspire to.

    - Science Department Head The Bishop Strachan School
  • I thought that Natalie's speech was incredible. These types of talks often miss the mark when it comes to learnings and key takeaways, but I really appreciate that Natalie found a way to tell her story and give the audience a sense of her key lessons at the same time.

    - WXN Attendee
  • Really enjoyed your talk this evening. ‪‎STEM opportunities and ‪‎diversity need more advocates. Thanks for sharing!

    - Corporate Commodity Management Consultant. Celestica
  • Natalie Panek's talk is inspiring. The power of perseverance in accomplishing your dreams.

    - Manager, Course Development and e-learning Initiatives, The G.Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University
  • The calibre of speaker - did a great job storytelling her experiences and learnings in a compelling way - one of the best talks I've ever seen (in person or TED talks!)

    - WXN Attendee
  • Natalie was awesome - that is the word that trustees, students, parents and educators use when describing her presentation. She was very inspiring and yet down to earth. I so appreciated how she took the time to respond to the children's questions.

    - Director of Education, Rainy River District School Board
  • People were blown away by her accomplishments and really appreciate the fact that she talked about not being afraid to fail which may lead to success. We were extremely happy with Natalie as a speaker and the audience thoroughly enjoyed her.

    - Events Coordinator, Insurance Institute
  • Natalie is lovely. She did a fantastic job at our client event. She also did two presentations at two different schools and the kids were captivated by her presentations. She was very approachable. Overall, a fantastic day. I know three appearances on the same day is a lot for any speaker but she did it with such enthusiasm and style.

    - Director of Individual Client Management, Mawer Investment Management Ltd

Summary Profile

Natalie is an intelligent, insightful, energetic speaker who infuses powerful storytelling with a down-to-earth personality. She brings an unrivaled passion for ideas that inspires audiences to embrace the learning process: demand the most of themselves, commit to a goal, and develop intellectual fortitude. Natalie is on a mission to inspire the next generation of female game-changers to dive head-on into challenge and pursue careers in engineering and technology.

She shares a powerful narrative infused with valuable takeaways. Natalie has had some extraordinary experiences that have shaped her dreams of becoming an astronaut, including her grit and perseverance at applying and being rejected not once, not twice but 4 times by NASA…before she earned her internship at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center and Ames Research Center, where she worked on a mission to Mars.

At age 20, she was the first female driver of the University of Calgary’s inaugural solar-powered vehicle which raced up from Texas to Calgary. With degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Natalie has also co-authored papers on Microgravity Combustion and On-orbit Satellite Servicing. Her love of space and aviation led her to obtain a private pilot’s license to fly a single-engine aircraft. The Financial Post described Natalie as “a vocal advocate for women in technology”.

She is a technology contributor for The Next Women Business Magazine and was featured on the editorial site Women You Should Know as a STEM Rock Star who is revolutionizing how we think about women in tech. Natalie is also both a mentor and program adviser for Cybermentor, through the University of Calgary.

RT @techreview: In case you missed it: the first flight of a fully electric commercial aircraft has taken place in Canada. https://t.co/aau… (2019-12-14 03:47:53)
RT @Maxar: .@nmpanek, rocket scientist at Maxar, uses her passion for #space and genius for #aerospace robotics to combat #pollution in out… (2019-12-14 02:51:54)
@namshine Right!? (2019-12-13 11:24:01)